ABOUT LAST NIGHT
The Cleveland Cavaliers won their tenth straight game, defeating the lowly Atlanta Hawks, 121-114. Dennis Schroder had 27 points and 5 assists for Atlanta, while Marco Belinelli came off the bench to score 22 on 8-11 shooting. It mattered not, as Kevin Love sprung for 25 points and 16 rebounds, and LeBron James chipped in with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 12 assists on 8-11 shooting.
“We know it’s 10 because everyone talks about it and everyone’s on social media and things of that nature,” said LeBron after the game. “But we understand how we got here. And that’s defense and the way we’ve been playing offensively. … If you win 10-plus games in any sport, major sport, that’s very, very good.”
The streak is the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and the Cavs will look to keep it going on Saturday against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.
“Saturday, it’s another struggling team, and we understand that,” James added. “But we understand we’re going to get their best in Memphis, so we look forward to the challenge.”
The Denver Nuggets, already without Paul Millsap and Wilson Chandler, were dealt another blow last night when Nikola Jokic injured his ankle. It happened towards the end of the first half when he stepped on Jerian Grant’s foot, badly turning his ankle. He was fouled on the play, and was slated to shoot free throws, but he instead tried heading straight to the locker room. The Nuggets had to call a timeout, and veteran Richard Jefferson had to corral him, and explain that if he left the game without shooting his free throws, he’d be unable to return for the rest of the night.
“It was chaotic. It was a timeout, and he was saying he was done,” said Jefferson. “I was like, ‘Dude, if don’t go and shoot the free throws, one, the other team gets to pick who shoots them, and two, if you go back in the half and you start feeling a little better, you can’t come back.”’
It ended up not mattering. After Jokic sank his two throws, he left the game and was not seen again, finishing the night with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 15:55 of action. Thankfully, X-Rays were negative, and hopefully, all he has is a sprain. He’ll be looked at again today.
As for the game itself, it came down to a wild finish in the final seconds. First, Chicago’s Kris Dunn drove to the hoop for a layup with 9.6 seconds left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead. But then…
Will Barton finished the night with a career high 37 points off the bench on 13-19 shooting, taking over in the absence of Jokic.
“There’s Will Barton and there’s Thrill Barton,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. “And tonight you saw Thrill Barton.”
“I was telling my teammates give me the ball and get out of the way,” said Thrill Barton after the game.
It was a big win for the Nuggets, who had to finish the game without their entire starting front court. A loss at home to the lowly Bulls would be too much to take, but Barton ensured that at least for one night, panic was averted. That being said, Denver cannot afford to go any significant amount of time without Jokic, who leads them in points, rebounds and assists.
In our Game of the Night, the Celtics pulled away from the Sixers down the stretch for a 108-97 victory. Kyrie Irving scored 36 to lead Boston, and as he often does, led the charge as the C’s put the game away.
“Some guys think a lot quicker than others. I was just fortunate enough that my mind works a lot quicker than other people in the fourth quarter,” explained Irving, whose quick mind has been known to postulate that the world is flat.
Marcus Smart had high praise for his teammate, and a comparison to last year’s heroics from Isaiah Thomas.
“It’s tremendous. Like I said about Isaiah, sometimes you just get caught watching the way he’s able to score the ball. [Irving] came in and it is refreshing to see a guy come in and give you what you need. He gets to where he wants to go. He doesn’t stop until he gets there. When you’ve got a player like that, it’s hard to stop.”
Al Horford added 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists on 9-12 shooting for Boston. The Sixers played without Joel Embiid, who is still restricted from appearing in the second night of a back to back.
Rounding out the night, the Jazz defeated the Clippers, 126-107, in a battle between injury plagued teams, and the Bucks got a win on the road in Portland, 103-91.
THE NIGHT AHEAD
Game of the Night – Detroit Pistons at Washington Wizards (7:00 pm, League Pass)
The Wizards, a team that considers itself a major player in the East (just ask them), have stumbled out of the gate, and are currently without the services of John Wall, a predicament that might send them spiraling further down the Eastern standings. They’ve lost five of their last seven as they suffer through these trying times. Meanwhile, much has been made of the Pistons fine play of late. Winners of four of their last five games, they seem to be getting better and better each night. They’ll be looking to continue the trend against a team currently headed in the opposite direction.
Another intriguing matchup is between the Raptors and the Pacers. Toronto’s been flying under the radar a bit this season, but they’ve won six of their last eight and have been looking like their usual solid selves. The Pacers will be looking to bounce back after a big loss to the Rockets, which snapped them back to reality after having won seven of their last nine coming into that game. Nevertheless, they’ve been one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season, and they’ll face another good test against the steady Raptors at 7:30 pm on League Pass.